23 November 2019

North Korea

North Korea's suspected submarine missile 'pushes the envelope'

KONFRONTASI-North Korea fired what may be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Wednesday, which would be the first test in three years of what had been a relatively young but rapidly progressing programme to deliver nuclear weapons.

The launch comes hours after North Korea announced it would resume nuclear talks with the United States this weekend, potentially ending a months-long deadlock that followed a pledge by leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump to make progress.

North Korea leader Kim to meet Russia's Putin this month

KONFRONTASI-North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will travel to Russia in the second half of this month and meet President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Thursday.

The announcement of the upcoming summit comes as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is pushing for a deal with Kim that would bring an end to nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Two earlier summits between Kim and Trump failed to reach an agreement on a denuclearisation deal. Trump administration officials have floated the possibility of a third summit.

North Korea conducts tests for 'tactical guided weapon': report

KONFRONTASI-North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has supervised the test-firing of a new type of "tactical guided weapon" in a move that could be an attempt to register the country's displeasure with currently deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.

The country's state media, KCNA, reported on Thursday that the "advantages" of the weapon were "the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead".

North Korea's Kim says must deliver 'blow' to those imposing sanctions: KCNA

KONFRONTASI-North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country needs to deliver a “telling blow” to those imposing sanctions by ensuring its economy is more self-reliant, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday.

It was the first time Kim stated North Korea’s position on the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi that collapsed in February, and signalled a continued focus on economic development, a strategic direction officially declared a priority last April.

North Korea threatens to cancel Kim-Trump meeting

KONFRONTASI-North Korea has threatened to cancel an unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jung-un and US President Donald Trump.

Washington will "have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military" said the North's official news agency KCNA on Tuesday.

North Korea must dismantle weapons program: Pompeo

KONFRONTASI-North Korea must commit to immediately dismantling its weapons program, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded.

At his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday at the State Department's headquarters in Washington, DC, the former CIA chief said that efforts to denuclearize North Korea were still in the "beginning stages.”

"We are committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program and to do so without delay," Pompeo said.

North Korea's pledge to dismantle nuclear site sounds good, but verification will be tough

KONFRONTASI- North Korea’s pledge to dismantle its Punggye-ri nuclear test site sounds like a big step forward but verifying whether that will actually happen will be difficult, underlining the complexities of any deal it may strike with the United States.

The site consists of a system of tunnels dug beneath Mount Mantap in the northeastern part of North Korea. Some of the tunnels may have collapsed, possibly rendering the site unusable, recent Chinese research suggests.

Pyongyang said the promise to shut down the Punggye-ri site was to “transparently guarantee” its dramatic commitment to stop all nuclear and missile tests.

Experts said this suggests a new openness on Pyongyang’s part ahead of leader Kim Jong Un’s summit on Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and subsequent meeting in May or June with U.S. President Donald Trump. It also raised the possibility that Pyongyang would allow on-site verification, they said.

“In the past, North Korea resisted U.S. requests to visit the test site and take samples,” said David Albright from the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. “This statement opens the door to seeing if that kind of access is possible.”

Other experts said a simple closure of the site, where North Korea has conducted all six of its tests, was more likely than a complete dismantling. They said they doubted that Pyongyang would allow on-the-ground verification, since it would also allow scientists to get evidence on its nuclear tests.

“They declared the site closed unilaterally. They didn’t negotiate it away,” said Joshua Pollack, senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “Why would they let us collect intel on their past tests?”

North Korea officially confirms plans for talks with US

KONFRONTASI - North Korea has officially acknowledged plans for holding historic talks with the United States.

State-run media reported Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had discussed the upcoming talks at a key ruling party meeting a day earlier.

Seoul aims for more talks about talks with North Korea this month

KONFRONTASI- South Korea said on Friday it was seeking high-level talks this month with North Korea to prepare for a summit and that South Korean President Moon Jae-in may meet Donald Trump before the U.S. president’s planned meeting with the North Korean leader.

Amid a flurry of diplomacy from Asia to Europe to Washington, Trump reaffirmed his plan to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un by the end of May during a phone call on Friday with Moon and both voiced “cautious optimism” about efforts to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

A White House statement said Trump and Moon discussed preparations for their upcoming engagements with Pyongyang and agreed that “concrete actions,” not words, were the key to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

They “emphasized that a brighter future is available for North Korea, if it chooses the correct path,” it said.

Earlier, Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said proposed North-South talks in late March would cover key agenda topics and other details of the pending summit between Moon and Kim.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo, whom Trump nominated this week to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has been playing a lead role in planning the talks and has been conducting back-channel communications with North Korean representatives.

Pompeo has engaged with counterparts through a channel that runs between the CIA. and North Korean counterpart, the Reconnaissance General Bureau. He remains in close touch with the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon, said a U.S. official familiar with the preparations.

For many years, the main and often only channels of official communication between Washington and Pyongyang have been South Korea’s intelligence service and North Korea’s UN Mission in the United States, the official added.

The official confirmed that Pompeo has taken the lead on planning because after the departure of Joe Yun, the State Department’s point person on North Korea, intelligence agencies are the main source of expertise on the country.

The planning is at “a very early stage,” the official said.

If North Korea agrees to the talks, they would offer an opportunity for Pyongyang to break its silence on what Seoul says is Kim’s desire to meet Trump and Moon and his willingness to freeze his country’s nuclear and missile programs.

 

“We’ve decided to narrow down the agenda topics to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, securing permanent peace to ease military tension and new, bold ways to take inter-Korean relations forward,” Im, the head of South Korea’s summit preparation team, told reporters.

Im said Moon may meet Trump after an inter-Korean summit but before Trump’s planned summit with Kim in May.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Moon pledged in the call with Trump to cooperate closely with Washington on summit diplomacy. Trump asked South Korean officials to show flexibility in trade negotiations with the United States in the call, the South Korean presidency said.

Even amid North Korea tensions, Trump has repeatedly denounced a U.S. free trade deal with ally South Korea as “unfair” and threatened many times to scrap it.

Senior South Korean officials met Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang this month and told Washington the North Korean leader was open to giving up his nuclear weapons if North Korea’s security was guaranteed.

Trump responded with a surprise announcement that he was willing to meet Kim in a bid to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.

North Korea yet to comment on Trump-Kim meeting plan: South Korea

KONFRONTASI - South Korea says it has not yet received an official response from the North about a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which the American president has said is being planned for May.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said on Monday that Pyongyang was apparently silent over the upcoming summit to “cautiously” formulate a response.

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